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Monday, November 10, 2014

Gun Control and Women’s Self-Defense

In her article "From Gun Politics to Self -Defense Politics: A Feminist Critique of the Great Gun Debate," Jennifer D. Carlson takes a hard look at how the issues of self-defense are often confused with general issues around gun rights.  She points out that debates about self-defense are often presented as a false choice, what she refers to as "self-protection with a gun or no protection at all."
She points out that on the pro gun rights side, owning a gun and having the right to use it is the only effective means of self-defense.  On the pro gun control side, targets of violence should rely only on the police and non-violent methods of protection. In terms of self-defense for women and sexual violence, Carlson argues advocates on both sides of the debate are failing to present realistic solutions - that women need options for "effective, physical unarmed resistance" that fall in-between the two extremes. 

One problem however is that our culture does not accept the idea that women can, and should, defend themselves.  Take for example the case of Marissa Alexander.   She is currently on trial in Florida for firing a warning shot to protect herself from her abusive husband who had strangled her and threatened to kill her.  She originally lost her case and was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but her case is now being appealed and she is now under house arrest.  Even though she had a gun, had cause to use it and showed restraint in how she used it, she is still being punished for protecting herself. 

Alexander's case is one of many illustrating that self-defense is more than simply a matter of superior firepower; issues of gender, race and class all limit the ways women can keep themselves safe.  Guns will continue to be one method of self protection, but women should have access to a wide variety of options for defense, as well as the legal right to act.    

Nat Wilson, IMPACT Chicago Suited Instructor

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